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Friday, June 1, 2012

What They're Saying About Her

Prime Mininster David Cameron - the youngest and latest of the 12 prime ministers who have served the Queen, beginning with Winston Churchill - praises his Sovereign in words that make me wonder if ol' Dave hasn't been reading the Blue Truck, since I used the very same phrase a couple of days ago:

BTW, FYI: In American terms, the Queen's reign has stretched from the presidency of Harry Truman to that of Barack Obama, 12 presidents in all, most of whom have enjoyed a State Visit with the Queen, either at Buckingham Palace or at the White House.

And here is Sir Cliff Richard - who was never a big star over here, but from what I gather was, at his height, a star of Elvis magnitude in Britain - praising the Queen's enduring dignity:

An excerpt from today's editorial in the Daily Telegraph, "The Queen's Sixty Years of Service, Never to Be Forgotten":
So what do we see in Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter? Something of a family resemblance, yes, but we do not see an Empress. Hardly had it fully grown before the Empire began to fade, and “all our pomp of yesterday”, as Kipling wrote for that Diamond Jubilee, “is one with Nineveh and Tyre”. A Queen, though, is what we still see, and who’d have thought it should seem so right for the 21st century – the Space Age as it was expected to be characterised?

We hear little of republicanism just now. No one, to speak of, wants a president, for the spirit of the age is against politicians, who promise much and soon disappoint. Would a member of the British Armed Forces be stirred to fight so selflessly – to die if need be – for a campaigning politician as for Queen and country? For the Queen, we know, is not in it for what she can get. If there is a glint of steel about her, it is in devotion to duty. There is no compromise there. “I dedicate myself anew to your service,” she said in her message on February 6, the actual anniversary of her accession. She repeated this dedication before both Houses of Parliament. This is her life.

Yet in the pomp and circumstance of the Jubilee is there not, perhaps, too much of Gilbert and Sullivan? No, not if a detail from the Coronation is anything to go by. It was decided in 1953 to invest the Queen with Armills, as tradition required. But what were Armills? In the coronations of 1661 and 1761, they were taken to be stoles, a silly mistake. In truth, they are bracelets. Reviving the arcane ceremonial might sound absurd, but a pair of Armills were newly made (with help from the Commonwealth realms), and the Archbishop of Canterbury put them on the Queen’s wrists as “symbols and pledges of that bond which unites you with your Peoples”. That is real enough, as the years since have shown.

The same sort of thing is meant by people now when they turn out, whether it rains or shines, to see the 1,000 vessels in the Thames pageant, to hold a street party, light a beacon, put up bunting, or just watch the thanksgiving service at St Paul’s on television and perhaps cut up a red, white and blue cake from Marks and Sparks. Naturally, there are jokes, and mishaps, and cross words and drink taken, for we are human beings. It might look a trifle footling and domestic, but no outside observer should mistake what we are at. We are proud to be British, proud of our monarch, and grateful to her, too. Our pride and gratitude are not expressed in aggressive patriotism, yet our monarchy is linked with liberty, and we are ready to defend both together. . . .

It is clear that the Queen doubts her role no more now than she did when, as a princess, she learnt motor mechanics in the Auxiliary Territorial Service in the Second World War, the outcome of which long remained uncertain. Perseverance in an uncertain cause requires courage. Quiet courage, with the Duke of Edinburgh at her side, has been the constant tenor of her 60 years on the throne. The response for us at this Jubilee is easy – easy because sincere – to sing, or shout: God save the Queen.

Excerpt from a tribute by columnist Allison Pearson, also in the Telegraph, "Diamond Jubilee: We Won the Lottery with Elizabeth II":
Above all, the cheering crowds along the Thames tomorrow will be celebrating our luck that Elizabeth’s reign has been long. And, let’s face it, the Queen must never be allowed to die. I’m sorry, but there will have to be a statute against it. With dedication, duty and discipline, those d-words almost extinct at the start of the 21st century, she has carried a burden for us all. I guess we won’t know quite how heavy it was until she is gone. . . .

I was never an ardent royalist. Coming from Welsh mining stock, I lack the vital deference gene. My admiration for her evolved gradually. As an adult dismayed by the shallowness and venality of politicians, I came to see that she alone was incorruptible. What I had once perceived as coldness became a priceless inability to fake emotion. While others debased their standards in pursuit of instant popularity, the Queen held back. She has never stooped to conquer. For this, I love her. . .

The Queen is not a cynic. During her long reign, her country may have moved from instinctive deference to raucous scepticism, from imperial giant to self-loathing satrap, but our Queen still believes in us, or believes in her duty to us. That is why she enables us to give vent to our deepest, dormant patriotic feelings. If there is a single theme running through each of her Christmas messages, it is an insistence that the country has a future and individuals can make a difference.

In April 1947, a lovely English girl, who was celebrating her 21st birthday, had sat behind a microphone in South Africa and made a promise. “It is very simple,” she began. “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”

She said it was simple, but it wasn’t, was it? Turning yourself into a living symbol isn’t straightforward. A young woman vowing to repress every selfish impulse, tread down all unruly feelings and dedicate herself to an abstract ideal of nationhood on behalf of 200 million people is not simple. I can never hear Princess Elizabeth’s radio broadcast to the Empire and the Commonwealth, made in a high, girlish voice fluting with nerves, without being reduced to a helpless puddle of gratitude. “It has made me cry,” she admitted after reviewing the final draft of that script. And no wonder. Five years later her beloved father would be dead and they would place that heavy crown on her head in Westminster Abbey. Tears were an indulgence she would rarely permit herself in the years ahead.

And finally, columnist Matthew Norman, a former little-r republican, explains how the Queen's stoic adherence to duty has transformed his view of the monarchy in "Our Uniquely Familiar and Entirely Unknowable Monarch":
When all of this is over – when the armada has finished sailing the Thames, the last ceremonial salute been received, and the dregs of the street party detritus duly binned – what will be the Queen’s defining reflection on her Diamond Jubilee? Certainly you can imagine her kicking off her shoes and savouring a nightcap in relief that the frantic fuss is behind her, and that life may return to what passes in her singular case for normality.

Beyond that, however, the imagination hits a brick wall. None of us has a clue what the Queen thinks, and this, when you think about it, is what makes her remarkable, and best explains her success. After 60 years as sovereign, her people have barely the vaguest idea of what goes on in her head. Being the planet’s most relentlessly public figure and among its most impenetrably private, at once uniquely familiar and entirely unknowable, is a paradox that never loses its power to intrigue. . . .

Responsibility without power, the curse of the constitutional monarch down the democratic ages, must be a frustrating burden to bear, but her most savage critic would not accuse her of failing in that duty for a moment. This goes some way, though far from all the way, towards explaining why she has virtually no critics left, even among those of us who once thought of ourselves as republicans.

One can only write about the Queen from a perspective dictated by age because, like any enigmatic paradigm, she must mean different things to different generations. To my parents, a little less than a decade her juniors, she is most potently an emblem of wartime defiance, the little princess who was not evacuated to the safety of Canada, but stuck around and went to work as a mechanic. To my 15-year-old son, born a few months before the death of Diana presented the most lethal menace of her reign, she is a likeable but remote and irrelevant figure.

It is those of us in middle age, born in the dog days of deference not long after Lord Altrincham was ostracised from polite society for sneering at her voice, and adolescents during the punk explosion that propelled the Sex Pistols’ "God Save The Queen" to the top of the Silver Jubilee charts, whose view of her has been transformed. A little like Winston Smith with Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four – although without the application of electrodes, rats or relentless propaganda – we have finally learnt to love our Queen.

This may be largely because we have changed, and that the qualities of permanence, stability and stoicism that seem so dull and restrictive in youth become more attractive with the passing of the years. . . .

Against the odds, she has rendered the British throne more secure than perhaps it has ever been, with the near inevitability that she will leave three generations of successors. The vinegary brand of republicanism which dismisses monarchy as an infantilising force has come, meanwhile, to seem babyishly peevish itself, not merely because the countries we tend to regard as the most grown-up and progressive, Holland and the Scandinavian nations, retain their lower-key versions; but because even those of us who once would have done away with it have come, under her aegis, to relish the eccentricity, charm and precious sense of national belonging it provides.

To which your Head Trucker would add, you can learn a lot about someone simply by observation: actions speak much, much louder than words. And quite often, truer.


Ruffy said...

God Save The Queen!

Davis said...

Long may she reign!

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